Choose Your Online Backup Provider Carefully

When selecting an Online Backup Service, it is critical that you understand how the provider protects your data. Back in September, 2007, I posted this: Caution: Online Backup Startups.

" A relatively novice computer owner with a cable modem and fixed IP address can buy a terabyte disk drive and some software and call himself an online backup service. Imagine your backup data that you thought was safe and secure at an online vault is actually stored on someone's Dell home computer in the bonus room above their garage."

Don't just assume that a larger company is the answer to ensuring that your backup data is safe. Large companies providing backup services are only as good as the IT people who are actually operating the backup service. I spent plenty of time consulting with large companies who are mostly interested in doing everything on the cheap so they can maximize profits. It also seems obvious to me that hot new online backup services that are offering huge free accounts or unlimited backup storage for a small fee are aggressively trying to get customers, even if they are losing money on them. These companies are likely positioning themselves to either sell the company, or extract money out of those customers once they are on the hook and have critical mass. You can bet that they will change their business model at some point, whether they sell out or not.

Quoted from

Web Worker Daily » Archive Who Protects Your Cloud Data? «

Back in April, we speculated about one of the hidden dangers of depending on web services to store your data: the possibility that no one was doing backups. Now that possibility may have turned to reality for users of Omnidrive (once touted as the “clear leader” in the online storage field by TechCrunch). The service has been offline for some days, with its servers currently not responding at all. A December article at ReadWriteWeb contains serious allegations of fraud from the company’s ex-CTO (as well as a defense from the CEO).

My sympathies at this point are with Omnidrive’s users, particularly those who have their only copies of documents on an unreachable server. I can think of plenty of times when a days-long outage (let alone a permanent loss) of my own document storage would be devastating. The larger question, though, is what you as a user can (or should) do about this? Online document storage is certainly attractive to the web worker; being able to access and share your work easily in any browser is definitely a killer feature. But how do you balance that off against the fact that your documents could simply vanish overnight?

Online Backup and Online Storage are not the same thing. Online backup implies that the files stored at the service provider are backup copies, not the primary copy. Although online backup maybe inherently less risky than online storage, the last thing you want to find out when you need to restore your data is that your data is not available.

A few suggestions that may help avoid making the wrong choice when selecting an Online Backup Service:

  • Look for an online backup service provider that has a sustainable business model, with account plans that are priced fairly. Ultra-cheap, free, and unlimited are not sustainable without some other sources of income, such as advertising or selling customer lists.

  • Online backup services that have a primary focus on providing online backup services are more likely to continue to provide good service, as opposed to a company that has multiple business lines where they can refocus their investments on the more profitable lines.

  • Look for clear statements about security and redundancy on their websites. Make sure your data is stored in at least two real data-centers, not in a back-office server room.

  • Be skeptical of any company that does not provide a telephone number on their website.

  • Get a trial account, backup some data for a few days, and then restore a set of files (as large as possible). Make sure you can restore your files quickly and easily. You don't want to find out that restoring data is a problem when you need to recover from a loss.

There are a lot of good online backup services to choose from. Many offer good prices. Don't just pick a low cost provider. Assess the value of your data, your family photos, your business records, your music, ... Choose a provider that is dedicated to protecting those assets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice, what an eye opener. thanks for bringing this up, i am thinking of using an online backup service. do you have a list of backup services that are verified to be legit? how can I find out?